Pool Safety

School is back in session … so no doubt parents all across the Bay Area are breathing a sigh of relief.

Thankfully, the warm summer weather isn’t quite over yet here in the San Francisco Bay Area, and with Labor Day right around the corner, that means it’s still “swimming season” and kids of all ages will still be in and around pools.

A recent blog post I read, reminds me though, how important it is to practice proper safety with children around pools. According to Nicole’s post, the National Safety Council (NCS) reports that drowning is the third leading cause of death among children. Similarly, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that drowning kills more children between the ages of 1 to 4 years old than any other cause other than birth defects; and among children 1 through 14 years old, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death (after motor vehicle crashes). The recent drowning of Bode and Morgan Miller’s child is likewise a reminder of how sudden and devastating such a loss can be.

Here are some tips from the CDC on prevention of drowning:

  • Closely supervise children around water. Adults often expect children to splash and show obvious signs of distress when they are having trouble in the water. However, drowning victims, especially children, rarely are able to call for help or wave their arms, and thus usually drown silently.  
  • Avoid alcohol while supervising children or before swimming, boating, or water skiing. Alcohol influences balance, coordination, and judgment, and its effects are heightened by sun exposure and heat.
  • Learn to swim; make sure children can swim and float. Swimming is more than a recreational activity; it is a potentially life-saving skill. Here is a list of a few Bay Area Swim Schools.
  • Learn CPR. In the time it takes for paramedics to arrive, CPR skills performed by a bystander could save someone’s life. The American Red Cross and The American Heart Association offer CPR classes. You can refine the search to show you classes in your area.

Here are some tips specific to Nannies:

  • Never take kids in a pool without the parents’ permission, or if you are not an experienced swimmer.
  • If you do not feel comfortable with the number of children you need to supervise- in or around the pool, let the parents know. Do not expect that parents are mind readers, if you’re not comfortable with what they are asking you to do, let them know. The pool is too dangerous to take the risk.
  • Research swim classes for your charges. If the parents have not put the children in a class, offer to do the research and take the child to swim school during the day.
  • Keep up-to-date on your CPR and even better, get a lifeguard certification. This not only keeps children safe, but also makes you more marketable as a Nanny.

Here are some tips specific to parents:

  • California passed a new law, Senate Bill 442, that came into effect on January 1, 2018. This law requires that certain safety devices intended to prevent drowning accidents be used on or around the pool. This law applies when your house with a pool is being sold, or whenever a homeowner is adding or renovating a pool. Even if you do not fall within those groups, it is helpful knowledge to keep in mind.
  • If you have a pool and you plan to have friends over for a party, you might want to consider hiring a lifeguard. That way, someone always has eyes on the pool. Another option is to have a rotation, where parents take turns being in the water and can be responsible for all the children. Parents and guests often get distracted and assume that someone else has eyes on the pool. Hire or assign someone to that task and make sure everyone knows the plan.

Here are some things I have started implementing with my own children:

  • We often go over to a friend’s house who has an ungated pool. Their backyard is beautiful, but as a Mom, it definitely raises my anxiety level. Our friends have these bracelets, which we use every time we are at their house. We use them regardless of whether we plan on swimming or not. It only takes a second for a child to wander into the backyard and be tempted by a beautiful pool.
  • My family is traveling to Hawaii for Spring Break, the house we are staying in has an ungated pool, so we plan on purchasing a set of those same bracelets and having the kids wear them on their ankles at all times. We will also put alarms similar to these on the doors and large windows with pool access, as well as the front door.
  • This one might sound like common sense, but I verbally call out to my husband, parents or friends if I need them to watch my kids. I say, “Hey Kevin, can you please keep an eye on the kids by/in/around the pool, I have to run inside.” I never assume that anyone, not even my husband, has their eyes on my children unless I verbally hand them off. I also stress that the kids will be “in/by/around the pool.” I want them to be hyper-aware that they are responsible for watching them like a hawk until I return.  
  • My children are not strong swimmers, they do not like the water and protest going in all the way. I know my kids’ limitations, so I always have them wear floaties or life-jackets when we are around a pool. This is not enough to save my children from drowning, but it can help. I also stress to my children that if they ever fall in, they should grab onto the side of the wall. Talking to children about water safety is very important. They need to know they are not allowed to go in or around the pool without an adult. This will not stop kids, but I am hopeful it will be a deterrent.
  • We also put away all the pool toys at the end of each day. We do not want a cute unicorn float to entice the kids back to the pool after we have finished swimming for the day.

Here are my final takeaways:

  • According to Levi’s Legacy, the most effective way to prevent drowning is to have a designated supervisor.
  • Make sure pools have a gate or safety cover to prevent from children from entering the pool unattended.
  • Install alarms on exterior doors that have pool access.
  • Drowning is preventable, but parents and caregivers need to have their eyes on the children and the pool at all times.
  • has compiled a list of what to do in the event of a nonfatal drowning. You can read their whole article here.